The Appellate Authority has been constituted by the Central Government vide its notification in the official Gazette, dated March 20, 2009, in terms of S. 22A(1) of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, S. 22A of the Cost and Work Accountants Act, 1959 and S. 22A of the Company Secretaries Act, 1980.
The professionals engaged in the professions of Chartered Accountants, Cost and Management Accountants and Company Secretaries have been constituted into various body corporate by their respective establishing Acts.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants was setup by the Chartered Accountants Act in 1949 to regulate the profession of Chartered Accountants and with a similar objective; the Institute of Cost Accountants was setup by the Cost and works Accountants Act in 1959 and the Institute of Company Secretaries was setup by The Company Secretaries Act in 1980 to regulate the professions of Cost Accountants and Company Secretaries respectively. Each Institute acts as a licensing, regulating, certifying and educational body for the respective profession.
By amendments to the establishing Acts of the three professional institutes, through the Chartered Accountants (Amendment) Act, 2006, The Company Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 2006, and the Cost and Works Accountants (Amendment) Act, 2006, a provision was made for appeal to the Appellate Authority, which previously could be made only to the High Court.
These amendments were necessitated by the need to bring about systemic changes in the institutions governed by the Act, particularly provision for an institutionalized Disciplinary Mechanism within the framework of the Institutes, which would ensure well considered yet expeditious disposal of complaints against members of the Institute, on professional or other misconduct, ensuring faster delivery of justice and to deal with appeals arising from decisions of disciplinary authorities.
A profession, unlike a business, is engaged in not for the sole or primary motive of profit but to render service to society. A large section of the public relies on the integrity and competence of these professionals, holding them and their professional acts, opinions and statements in high esteem and trust, enabling the wheels of commerce to turn smoothly with unfailing regularity and reliability. In fact even various arms of the Government pose immense trust in these professionals as they undertake various statutory functions. The objective of these Acts and professional bodies is to maintain the standards of the respective professions at a high level and consequently prescribe a code of conduct.
To ensure high professional standards and maintain the trust reposed in these professionals by the public, a Disciplinary Directorate is established by each Institute to investigate and punish cases of professional misconduct and even the conduct of a member in other matters that may bring disrepute to the profession. The disciplinary bodies have the power to take cognizance of all such matters on their own even without receiving a complaint.
The importance of the Appellate Authority as well as the Board of Discipline and the Disciplinary Committee can be gauged from the fact that they are vested with the powers of a Civil Court in respect of summoning and examining persons on oath, enforcing their attendance, discovery and production of documents and receiving evidence on affidavit. They can award punishment in cases of professional or other misconduct which may include a reprimand, temporary or permanent cancellation of license to practice (removal of name of member from the register) and monetary fine.
Any member of the Institutes (professional) who is aggrieved by an order of the Board of Discipline or the Disciplinary Committee of the Institute imposing a penalty on him, may appeal against the order to the Appellate Authority. The Director (Discipline) can also appeal against the decision of the Board of Discipline or the Disciplinary Committee to the Appellate Authority.
The Appellate Authority is located in NCR, headed by a Chairperson, who is or has been a judge of a High Court, two former members of the Council of each of the three Institutes and two nominees of the Central government having knowledge and practical experience in the field of law, economics, business, finance or accountancy.
The Appellate Authority holds its proceedings which are quasi-judicial in nature in NCR or on the request of parties, if feasible, at the place of alleged misconduct, giving reasonable opportunity of hearing to the parties and may confirm, modify or set aside the order of the Board of Discipline or the Disciplinary Committee, impose a penalty or set aside, reduce or enhance the penalty already imposed upon the member, refer the case back for further investigation or pass any such other order as the Authority thinks fit.